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Rethinking Happiness


This past summer I heard something about happiness that blew my mind.


I was listening to a webinar about anxiety in children and youth.


In her introduction, the presenter said that our society over celebrates happiness. The constant aspiration to be happy can make it difficult for children and youth to learn how to accept and regulate their emotions.


Our society over celebrates of happiness.


I was only in the first 5 minutes of the presentation and I had to push pause.


Hearing this I was flooded with memories of some of the thousands of messages about happiness I have heard, read, seen, assumed, or thought in my lifetime. My earliest one was from when I was 2 years old.


In elementary school I believed in fairy tales, happily ever after, romantic comedies and that becoming an adult means being happy. Adulthood was going to be Ice Cream for breakfast and not making my bed everyday.


Secondary school was filled with both good and painful times. There were highs and lows. More lows than highs but I believed that I just had to reach adulthood to find happiness.


In early adulthood my brother died. Adulthood did not have the happy start I thought it would.


I spent my 20s and some of my 30s chasing happiness. I was going to find it through my career, living overseas, my relationships, wearing nice clothes, maintaining my weight, and obtaining University degrees. I had many great experiences and times but happiness was fleeting.  My happiness always seemed to be in the future.


In my late 30s I began regular counselling and reading self help books. I embraced (and continue to embrace) the belief that my happiness is my responsibility, my thoughts impact me and having gratitude makes life better.


I thought I had it all figured out. I thought I was doing all the right things. But my mid 40s brought me work burnout from years of workaholism. I learned the hard way that I was using my career as a way to fill the personal voids in my life.


It made me wonder if I’d ever truly be happy?


Our society over celebrates happiness.


I found validation in those 6 words. I’m not a failure because I'm not happy all the time.


We live in a society that puts unrealistic pressure on people to be happy or strive to be happy always. In doing so, we miss opportunities to experience our other feelings in a positive way.


We don’t get to fully appreciate the gifts that emotions like anger, fear, sadness, guilt and jealousy bring us because we try to avoid them.


Despite what we are taught to believe, emotions are not inherently good or bad. They are primal and have been with us since our earliest ancestors. Fear was what kept our ancestors safe from sabre tooth tiger attacks. Jealousy ensured that their genes continued for future generations.


In more modern times anger has been a catalyst to major social change. (Thank you to all the women before me who fought for my right to own land and vote). Jealousy can be a motivator behind a person’s decision to apply for a higher paying job. Sadness brings people closer together.


Feelings serve a purpose. They are inevitable and ever changing. We can go through multiple emotions in one week, one day, one hour.


What might be good or bad about feelings is the way we respond to them.


Anger is often considered to be bad. Yes, if we regularly lash out at others in anger, it’s going to have a negative impact and we will feel badly.


It’s true that anger is unpleasant and uncomfortable but it tells us when there has been an injustice, when our boundaries have been crossed or when we have been deeply hurt.


If we can pause and recognize what anger is trying to tell us, it gives us a chance to respond in a better way than lashing out at the people we care about.


Going back to the idea that our society over celebrates happiness, let’s take the pressure off ourselves and the children in our lives to be continuously happy. Instead let’s find the richness and meaning in life that comes with feeling all emotions.


When happiness, joy, satisfaction and contentment are present savour the moment. It may or may not stay.  When other emotions present themselves, accept them, welcome then, learn from them and trust they will pass. Guide children to do the same and help them find the language they need to express them.


Let’s rethink happiness and normalize all feelings.


Finally, if you’re feeling stuck in difficult emotions like anger, sadness, guilt, grief or jealousy or find yourself regularly depressed or anxious, a good counsellor can help you heal and move through this.


Thank you for reading.


References:

Anxiety in Children and Youth Webinar

Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute












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Nicole S
Nicole S
Jan 20

Wow, well said. I resonate with this so much! Thanks for sharing Anikia 🤍

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Replying to

I appreciate you and your encouraging words very much. ❤️

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